US seeks allies on global plastic pollution treaty, Reuters reports

According to a document exclusively seen by Reuters, the United States is seeking to form a coalition ahead of negotiations on a global plastic pollution treaty. This follows weeks after a similar group was formed by several other G7 members, including Britain, Canada, France, and Germany.

Plastic pollutionThe ‘High Ambition Coalition To End Plastic Pollution’ was created in August and includes 20 countries, many of which are at the forefront of the environmental crisis. They advocate for a treaty which includes global standards, bans, and restrictions on plastic.

Reuters reports that six government and civil sources involved in the talks say the move from the US expresses a desire to keep the focus on individual efforts of countries rather than provide universal rules. The desired approach follows a similar model to the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The US was a key architect in the founding of the 2015 accord which aims to limit global warming to 2℃. The deal has faced criticism for having no enforcement mechanisms.

Speaking to Reuters, a campaign manager for Greenpeace, John Hocevar, and two anonymous sources said that US officials had privately said they are wary of agreeing to any global rules that would likely be rejected by its divided Congress.

The sources said that a deal similar to the Paris accord is preferable as it would not have to be ratified by Congress due to its reliance on voluntary commitments based on national laws.

A concept note for the proposed coalition seen by Reuters says ‘the development of national action plans’ should be ‘the primary mechanism’ for countries to contribute to the treaty.

According to a Reuters source, invitations have been extended to include Australia, Japan, and several other countries, and it aims to launch around the time of the first negotiations in Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022.

United Nations members agreed to form the plastic pollution treaty in February as an attempt to tackle plastic waste. The treaty is intended to be finalised by 2024.

Reuters reached out to the State Department for comment, but did not receive a direct answer.

Monica Medina, the US official leading its treaty negotiations, told Reuters: “[The US is] committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040.

"The best way is through a Paris-like agreement that helps countries take ambitious action and holds them accountable, lets them be innovative on finding solutions, and leads to action now and not later (sic).”

Hiroshi Ono, Japan’s vice minister for global environmental affairs, told Reuters that he knew of a proposed coalition on plastic involving the United States but declined further comment. Australia's environment department also informed Reuters that it was aware of different coalitions forming, without elaborating.

Ono has previously said that the treaty cannot take a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ as countries have different ‘national circumstances’.

Oil and petrochemical firms that make plastic have shown resistance to tougher measures such as a universal approach. Reuters reported in February that industry groups have lobbied governments such as the US to reject deals that seek to limit plastic manufacturing.